American Idol: Chastize me over Elvis Presley’s grave

As guest blogger, I will open in the only way I should: by offering my sincerest apologies for not getting the blog for last night’s “American Idol” completed in a more timely fashion. I’ve been battling an allergy attack since yesterday (the result, I feel certain, of all the dust I kicked up in my office while scouring the joint for tax receipts), and, quite frankly, I feel like crap. But I know Mike’s got a lot going on these days, what with his big move and all, so I was always going to do this for him. I just had to build up my strength, which I have now done, so with my cup of hot lemon tea with honey sitting by the keyboard, let’s get to talking about who got the boot.

Things kicked off last night with a medley of Elvis Presley songs – “Burning Love,” “Teddy Bear,” “Return to Sender,” and “Viva Last Vegas” – which neither did damage to the reputation of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll nor did it any favors. The best part about “Burning Love” was the cute moment where we saw Katie working her knees for all they were worth, and Lee’s vocals on “Teddy Bear” sounded like those of a lounge singer, but I actually kind of dug it. Otherwise, though, I was pretty underwhelmed by the performances, and when “Viva Las Vegas” kicked off, all I could think of was how much better the Dead Kennedys did the song.

From there, the program went green for a minute or so as we were treated to a Ford-sponsored commercial with several of the contestants performing a version of…wait for it…the Polyphonic Spree’s “Light and Day / Reach for the Sun.” How completely and utterly surreal, but it sounded a damned sight better than any of those Elvis covers.

Moving on to the first of the night’s departures, Cap’n Seacrest narrowed down the playing field to three contestants:

* Casey, whose version of “Lawdy Miss Claudy” Mike described as “not bad at all vocally, but just a so-so rating on the entertainment meter.”
* Aaron, who offered a take on “Blue Suede Shoes,” which Mike called “cheesy but not horrible.”
* Andrew, who Mike buried in the Not So Good column last night, saying, “It wasn’t awful, but not at all star quality and easily the worst of the night.”

So long, Andrew…and, really, was there ever any doubt that you’d be one of the two players leaving the game tonight? But, hey, at least we got your version of James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” as a farewell, which served to remind us that, all things considered, America probably made the right decision.

It was right about this point in the proceedings when I found myself understanding why Mike complains about the length of “American Idol.” Tonight’s episode was as much filler as it was substance, and while well-intentioned, the worst offender was the Exxon/Mobil-sponsored look at the trip that Elliot Yamin and Fantasia took to Africa. Chalk this up to the flu if you wish, but twice I tried to watch this segment and twice I fell asleep. Finally, I just fast-forwarded through it, but I pity those of you who had to sit through it live. Save it for “Idol Gives Back,” people.

Next up: former “AI” contestant Brooke White and Justin Gaston, best known for having appeared on “Nashville Star,” though they tried to assure us that we should know him for his online series, “If I Can Dream,” presumably because they tackled the Elvis song of the same title. To their performance, I say “meh.”

Now for a little more teasing: we find out that Crystal, Siobhan, and Lee are – along with Casey and Aaron – safe and sound and returning next week. If you’ve done your math, then you know that means we’re left with…

* Tim, whose take on “Can’t Help Falling in Love” astonished Mike…not because he liked it (the best he would say was that “it wasn’t awful”), but because the judges seemed to fall all over themselves to give it gushing praise.
* Michael, who performed a version of “In the Ghetto” led Mr. Farley to opine, “The soulfulness of this one was perfectly suited to Mike’s vocal and he really did a nice job.”
* Katie, who may have lost the audience’s love by picking a relative obscurity, “Baby What Do You Want From Me?” Says Mike, “There remains to me something missing from Katie’s act.”

Naturally, we’ve got have everyone left in suspense for a few minutes, so to kill time, they brought on last year’s runner-up, Adam Lambert, to perform his single, “Whataya Want From Me.” I thought the performance was often underwhelming, with his vocals sounding strained on several occasions. Still, between the music, the hook, and the laser show, I found enough love for the song to want to check out the studio version and subsequently buy it. After that performance, though, I’d never go see him in concert. Oh, and was it me, or was Adam’s look influenced heavily by Lindsey Buckingham in the video for “Slow Dancing”?

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In the end, once we knew that Tim was safe, there was little question in mind that Katie would be the one going home. America had come to embrace Big Mike after the judges saved him, so coupling that with his solid performance, he was sitting pretty. But Katie…? Not so much. Things wrapped up with the one-two punch of Katie performing a pretty weak version of “Let It Be” (which you can probably write off to her being upset) and a look back at Katie and Andrew’s voyage on the show, interspersed with a lot of shots of Katie weeping. Sorry, kid, but that’s the way it goes.

Well, kids, I’m out of here, but I’ll close by offering up the song that inspired the title of the blog, from a great and highly underrated band. Someone on Amazon.com described them by saying, “Cross the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, and throw in a pinch of Z.Z. Top and Otis Redding, and – presto! – you’ve got Flies on Fire.” There’s a little too much hyperbole in that statement for my comfort, but there are worse points of reference than the ones cited. See you next week, when Mr. Farley will be back on the attack for your reading enjoyment!

  

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